Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Pox Nora is one of those titles that is really hard to describe in a few sentences, because it draws from a handful of different gaming genres and manages to blend them into something that as a whole is rather unique. Having been out on PC for a few years now, Pox Nora makes its way to consoles and while it does show some of its age, the overall strategy behind the engine still works pretty well.
Right off of the bat, Pox Nora makes a rather interesting impression. Visually it has an almost retro, pixelated style that actually possesses a great deal of detail in the animations. Better still are the portrait images for classic fantasy creatures on their play cards themselves. The tutorials make it clear that there is a lot to take in, as it walks you through the basics of turn structure and gameplay progression. At its heart however, and what makes Pox Nora both unique and challenging to define is that it blends elements of collectible card games, strategy and RPGs into a package that offers up competitive multiplayer and single player gameplay.
Nora – from the title – is the focal point of the gameplay, because it serves as your manage or action points. From this resource you can activate abilities, summon new warriors and more. Because all of your options play out of one pool, you have to figure out if it is in your best interests to quickly deploy and mobilize your army with as many units as possible, or just cast a few strategic ones while keeping enough Nora in your back pocket to pull out a wily spell that gives your side proper momentum.
Despite the training scenarios, which admittedly did not want to work for me the first couple of days after release, there is still a great deal that you can really only learn once you take off the training wheels and play the game legitimately. However, once you get the hang of it, Pox Nora is pretty fun as you get comfortable with the ebb and flow of the turn-based strategic gameplay.
What personally makes Pox Nora addicting for me is the collectable card game element. Anyone who has read my reviews over the years likely knows that this genre has long been a favorite of mine, both in physical and video game formats. Here there are plenty of different factions, and each one has its own distinctive style of play. They tend to draw from familiar fantasy tropes such as the dwarven weaponsmiths or the agile elvish forest dwellers, but the styles of play are different enough to suit almost any preference. It helps that there is some pretty detailed world building that goes on behind the scenes, with plenty of lore about each of the factions. Each single player campaign manages to dress up relatively simple objectives with ties to the game world that at least lend proper motivations for why this fighting is happening in the first place.
Now, this was a free to play title on Steam and it still is on the PlayStation 4 as well. So, while you can get your feet wet and play without spending a nickle, there is a somewhat grindy element to the gameplay that doesn’t require you to spend money to enjoy yourself, but it sure can speed things up. Different types of leaders, card packs and boxes and more can be purchased for real funds, and if you enjoy the mix of elements that Pox Nora provides, you may well consider dropping a few dollars on the game to try and get access to more of what it has to offer.
So what about the transition from PC to console? It is a relatively seamless one. The game downloads and installs quickly enough, and the interface works with a controller just fine. I do have to admit however, that it probably handles better with a keyboard and a mouse – at least from a precision standpoint. I was quick to pick up the controls themselves, especially which face buttons performed which actions. However, there were times where large structures could obscure my view a bit and pointing the on-screen cursor where I wanted could be just a bit fickle. Far from the worst control transition I have ever run into, but it is pretty clear that this was a game built for a click and point interface initially.
Pox Nora is one of the better hybrid genre games out there that manages to take elements and inspiration from a few different places and blend them together into a pretty interesting package. The pacing here is certainly slow, and the strategic elements could at times use a little more depth during the actual gameplay, but the deck building and collectable card game aspects are very addictive and offer incentive to come back for more. The visuals and music get the job done and the lore behind the game is actually quite interesting for those who are interested in such things. Given that Pox Nora is a free to play title, anyone curious about what it has to offer might as well give it a try. Once you get past the initial learning curve, there is a lot to like here.Score: 7 / 10